We’ve Seen This Movie Before

In 1981, the center of attention in computing had shifted from massive machines programmed by a white-coated priesthood of programmers to cheap desktop crates built and programmed by scruffy hackers. I’d relocated from the Midwest to Palo Alto and signed on to help launch a new weekly newsmagazine to cover the scruffy ones. Meanwhile, just down El Camino at NASA’s Moffett Field, they were officially shutting down and disassembling the computer that had inspired Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s HAL 9000.

ILLIAC IV is a legendary pivotal point in computer design, and it holds a similar position in the long and complicated history of functional programming.

The idea behind ILLIAC IV was to break away from ...

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